Thursday, September 22, 2022

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

Selling Toothpaste and Presidents

Selling Toothpaste and Presidents
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 22, 2022, p. A4

When travelling the lecture circuit decades ago, I would occasionally get off on a rant regarding advertising’s manipulation of consumer demand.

I would ask the audience to look at the labels on the products in their bathroom cabinet for any that were not heavily advertised on television.

At that time Procter & Gamble’s Gleem toothpaste was widely advertised as “the toothpaste for people who can’t brush after every meal.”

After such lectures audience members would come forward to dispute my assertions. One especially agitated adult with red face, fiery eyes, and a forefinger in my chest asserted, “Other people, maybe; but I’m sure not influenced by commercials.”

As if to politely change the subject, I asked, “What toothpaste do you use?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Just curious,” I said.

“I use Gleem.”

“With all those toothpastes to choose from, why did you happen to pick Gleem?”

“Well, it’s just, … it’s just …, well I just can’t brush after every meal.”

Since many of the lectures were at academic institutions, my ongoing toothpaste survey revealed that most academics used Crest. (Part of my reason for following up with the Gleem fan.)

Since my dentist believed that brushing and flossing twice daily with water – or if one insisted on a dentifrice, baking soda – was adequate, why would academics use Crest?

It’s only a guess, but it turns out the American Dental Association had endorsed Crest. Perhaps dentists’ research revealed it did less harm than other toothpastes. I don’t know. Perhaps it was only natural that academics would go with the toothpaste choice of their fellow professionals.

Apparently by 2014 consumers had discovered another way to brush after every meal, or otherwise manage their dental hygiene without Gleem. With rapidly declining Gleem sales P&G took it off the market.

What does this have to do with the United States’ and other nations’ current slide from democracies into dictatorships?

Advertising isn’t new. One of the earliest ads (for “fine quality needles”) was printed from a copper plate during China’s Sung dynasty (960-1276). Advertising later began claiming its products raised one’s social status. But industrialization provided the products, and boost in advertising, from $200 million in 1880 to $3 billion in 1920.

This was soon followed by the use of psychological techniques, such as appealing to potential customers’ emotions of love, hate and fear. The economy grew by creating millions my late friend, Molly Ivins, described as people believing “more is better, and too much is not enough.”

As Adolph Hitler discovered, these same techniques had the power to flip a country noted for its educational system, creative literature, painting, poetry, music, theatre, and architecture into a Nazi state. (Photo credit: Danzigers Cheer Hitler, Sept. 19, 1939, wikimedia commons.)

Reflect on that, and then think about our current political campaigns' use of social media, the role of MAGA and its leader, in flipping a political party. As media critic Professor Rose Goldsen observed, from toothpaste to presidents, “Even though we know we are being taken, we are still being taken.”
Nicholas Johnson is the author of "Test Pattern for Living."

Gleem. “Do Crest Toothpastes Have the ADA Seal of Acceptance?” Crest, (“Has Crest Pro–Health Toothpaste received the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association? Yes. In fact, Crest Pro-Health Gel Toothpaste - Clean Mint, Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste - Clean Cinnamon, Crest Pro-Health Night Toothpaste, and Crest Pro-Health Whitening are the toothpastes that have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance for protecting against all these areas: cavities, gingivitis, plaque, sensitivity, stains and bad breath. They also help prevent tartar buildup and freshen breath.”)

“Gleem … the toothpaste for people who can’t brush after every meal,” image and text in LIFE magazine Sept. 9, 1957,

Rudy Sanchez, “Procter & Gamble Resurrects Gleem As An Electric Toothbrush, Nov. 11, 2019, (“Many consumers may not have heard of Gleem, which, despite being only recently retired, has long been bested by toothpaste competitors like Colgate and Crest. Although parent company Procter & Gamble shelved Gleem in 2014, they rebranded the product as Crest Fresh and White, forced to wear the livery of a one-time market rival.”)

History of Advertising. “History of Advertising,” Wikipedia, (“A copper printing plate dated back to the Song dynasty used to print posters in the form of a square sheet of paper with a rabbit logo with "Jinan Liu's Fine Needle Shop" and "We buy high quality steel rods and make fine quality needles, to be ready for use at home in no time" written above and below.[3] It is considered the world's earliest identified printed advertising medium.[4]” … “Total advertising volume in the United States grew from about $200 million in 1880 to nearly $3 billion in 1920.[43]” … “The former chair at Johns Hopkins University, John B. Watson was a highly recognized psychologist in the 1920s. After leaving the field of academia he turned his attention towards advertising where he implemented the concepts of behaviorism into advertising. This focused on appealing to the basic emotions of the consumer: love, hate, and fear. This type of advertising proved to be extremely effective as it suited the changing social context which led to heavy influence of future advertising strategy and cemented the place of psychology in advertising.[57][58]”)

“China in 1000 CE; The Most Advanced Society in the World,” 2022, (“During the Song (Sung) Dynasty (960-1276), technology was highly advanced in fields as diverse as agriculture, iron-working, and printing.”)

Germany. “The Weimar Renaissance,” Britannica, (“Amid the political and economic turmoil of the early 1920s, Germany’s cultural and intellectual life was flowering. … In 1919 Gropius became the founder and first director of the Bauhaus school of design in Weimar, the most important institution in Germany for the expression of Modernism’s aesthetic and cultural vision. Bauhaus artists believed that they were creating a new world through their painting, poetry, music, theatre, and architecture.”)

Rose Goldsen quote. Nicholas Johnson, “Forty Years of Wandering in the Wasteland,” Federal Communications Law Journal, 55 F.C.L.J 521 (2003), (“[FN22]. (“The latest organization of media educators was announced as this paper was being written. See Action Coalition for Media Education, at http:// (last visited Mar. 2, 2003). However media-savvy one may be, a search of cupboards and cabinets may provide illustrations of an insight Rose Goldsen [author of “The Show and Tell Machine,” 1977] once shared with the Author: ‘Even though we know we are being taken, we are still being taken.’") And in Nicholas Johnson, “Your Second Priority,” (2007/2008), p. 83.
# # #

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Civics Can Save Us

Civics Can Save Us
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, September 7, 2022, p. A5

Like Robert Frost confronting “two roads diverged in a wood,” Americans must choose. One road requires heavy lifting, rebuilding the decaying democracy our founders gave us; the other is an easy stroll down the green fairways of indifference to an authoritarian dictatorship.

As with other public challenges, the outcome will be decided in our public schools – a core institution for a self-governing people.

Boston Latin School was founded in 1635; the first free, taxpayer-supported public school four years later. Pennsylvania created the first statewide free education in 1790.

By the 1830s schools were adding years of instruction, the first high schools, and Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “It is by the attention it pays to public education that the original character of American civilization is at once placed in the clearest light.” He noted laws “establishing schools in every township, and obliging the inhabitants, under pain of heavy fines, to support them.”

“The character of American civilization” can still be judged by the attention we pay to public education. We’ve yet to add an additional two years of free education. Too many students are ignorant of American history and the provisions of our Constitution. MAGA politicians and parents attack underpaid K-12 teachers who ultimately leave their jobs. College tuition soars, while many university presidents are paid $1 million or more (over twice the U.S. president’s take-home pay), and student loan borrowers now owe $1.75 trillion.

The most significant K-12 class for future citizens governing themselves is “civics education.”

Civics education is nothing new, and its content and rationale change over time. In 820 BC the “civics education” Sparta lawgiver Lycurgus encouraged was designed to create citizens devoted to the public good.

By the 19th Century civics education was recognized as a major goal of public schools. In New England, de Tocqueville reported, “every citizen receives . . . the history of [the] country, and the leading features of its Constitution. … politics are the end and aim of education ….”

Today, the National Council for the Social Studies is the go-to source for civics education. Their position paper, “Revitalizing Civic Learning in Our Schools” should be required reading for every superintendent, school board member, principal, teacher, and parent.

It begins, “As Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewey and other great educators understood, public schools do not serve a public so much as create a public. The goal of schooling [is] to equip a citizenry with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for active and engaged civic life.”

Note the words “skills.” It is not sufficient that students read the Constitution and study Congress. As one researcher found, “students did best when discussing current events in class daily, simulating democratic processes regularly and engaging in community service annually.... [With only a] fleeting knowledge base [students] are poorly prepared for the demands of democratic governance.”
[Photo credit: Iowa State University; "Legislative Day is an opportunity for youth to learn about one of the core program areas of 4-H — leadership and civic engagement ... Youth participants were able to ... meet members of the Iowa House of Representatives and Senate to discuss issues affecting youth." March 3, 2020.]

Add Claire Nader’s new book for kids, parents and teachers, “You Are Your Own Best Teacher,” and there’s still hope for us.

Nicholas Johnson’s social studies teacher was Dr. John Haefner.


Two roads. Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” Poetry Foundation, (“. . . Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”)

Boston Latin; the first free; first statewide free. “History of education in the United States,” Wikipedia, (“The first American schools in the thirteen original colonies opened in the 17th century. Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States.[1] The first free taxpayer-supported public school in North America, the Mather School, was opened in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1639.[2][3]”)

“K-12,” Wikipedia, (“U.S. public education was conceived of in the late 18th century. In 1790, Pennsylvania became the first state to require some form of free education for everyone regardless of whether they could afford it. New York passed similar legislation in 1805. In 1820, Massachusetts became the first state to create a tuition-free high school, Boston English.[2] The first K–12 public school systems appeared in the early 19th century. In the 1830s and 1840s, Ohioans were taking a significant interest in the idea of public education.”)

Alexis de Tocqueville. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835/1840) See generally, “Alexis de Tocqueville,” Wikimedia,, and “2. Democracy in America.” Also, “Democracy in America,” Wikipedia,

Quotes from “Democracy in America” used in the column can be found by searching for them in the text: Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. I, 1835, Henry Reeve translation,

Ignorance of history/Constitution. Glenn Ricketts, “Knowledge of American History Rapidly Becoming History,” American History, National Association of Scholars, March 23, 2015, (“Now on the heels of our report comes the US Education Department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress quadrennial survey, The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010. As the title indicates, this study measures knowledge of the rudiments of US history among K-12 students at the elementary, middle and secondary levels. … eighty per cent of fourth graders, eighty-three per cent of eighth graders and eighty-eight per cent of high school seniors flunked the minimum proficiency rating. And within the senior cohort, a mere two per cent correctly answered a question about the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.”)

“Editorial: Citizenship 101: Too many Americans are ignorant of the basics of democracy,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 29, 2014, (“A survey of adults conducted in September by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that only 36% could name all three branches of the U.S. government; 35% couldn’t name even one. Only 27% of respondents knew that it requires a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a president’s veto, and 21% wrongly thought that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision must be returned to Congress for reconsideration. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg center, said the survey “offers dramatic evidence of the need for more and better civics education.”

Today, “Warren wrote, ‘education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.’” [Chief Justice Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education, 1954]

“[Retired] Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor … in a 2008 article written with former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, … argued that ‘civic education has been in steady decline over the past generation, as high stakes testing and an emphasis on literacy and math dominate school reforms. Too many young people today do not understand how our political system works.’”)

Attacks on teachers. Edward Graham, “Who is Behind the Attacks on Educators and Public Schools? The manufactured outrage perpetuated by dark money networks is both a danger to educators and a distraction from helping students and parents,” neaToday, Dec. 14, 2021, (“This peddling of misinformation and fear has led to a sharp increase in threats aimed at educators and school board officials, many of whom have been intimidated and threatened in alarming numbers across the country—outside school grounds, across social media, and, most notoriously, at local school board meetings.

Small groups of radicalized adults, egged on by these bad actors, have been whipped into a furor over COVID safety protocols and the false notion that children are being taught “critical race theory.” Some of these protests have ended in chaos, with school board members in Virginia receiving death threats and protesters in San Diego County forcing their way into a school board meeting and declaring themselves the newly-elected board.

Educators across the country have also shared horror stories about the assaults and abuses they’ve had to endure for simply doing their jobs. Teachers in California and Texas were physically assaulted over wearing masks, and in Arizona, a group of men were arrested and charged after attempting to abduct an elementary school principal for following COVID-19 guidelines.”)

Tuition increases. Melanie Hanson, “College Tuition Inflation Rate,” Education Data Initiative, last updated Aug. 10, 2022, (Numerous calculations. e.g., “After adjusting for currency inflation, college tuition has increased 747.8% since 1963.”)

College presidents pay. Anya Kamenetz, “More College Presidents Join the Millionaires’ Club,” nprEd, Dec. 13, 2017, (“The chief executives of 59 private colleges and seven public universities took home more than $1 million in total compensation in 2015, according to an analysis released this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education.”)

Darian Somers and Josh Moody, “10 Public Universities Run by Highest-Paid Presidents; These university presidents make at least $1 million,” USNews Education, Aug. 6, 2019, (“The U.S. president makes $400,000 per year. But numerous university presidents make more than double that. At least 40 National University presidents earn twice what President Donald Trump does on a yearly basis, according to a 2019 report from The Chronicle of Higher Education.”)

Total student loan debt. Anna Helhoski, Ryan Lane, “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022,” Nerdwallet, Aug. 25, 2022, (“Student loan borrowers in the United States owe a collective nearly $1.75 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of August 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.”)

Lycurgus. “Lycurgus (lawgiver),” (“Lycurgus (/laɪˈkɜːrɡəs/; Greek: Λυκοῦργος Lykourgos; fl. c. 820 BC) was the quasi-legendary lawgiver of Sparta ….”)

De Tocqueville, “every citizen.” See above, “Alexis de Tocqueville” and “Quotes from ‘Democracy in America.’”

National Council for the Social Sciences.

“Revitalizing Civic Learning in Our Schools.” “Revitalizing Civic Learning in Our Schools; A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies,” Approved 2013, (“As Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, John Dewey and other great educators understood, public schools do not serve a public so much as create a public.1 The goal of schooling, therefore, is not merely preparation for citizenship, but citizenship itself; to equip a citizenry with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for active and engaged civic life.”)

One researcher found. Shawn Healy [Civic Learning Scholar, McCormick Foundation; taking “con” position], “Con,” Marcia Clemmitt, “Civic Education: Are Students Learning How to be Good Citizens? Pro/Con Should states make the U.S citizenship test a graduation requirement” CQPress, CQ Researcher, Feb. 3, 2017, (“students did best when discussing current events in class daily, simulating democratic processes regularly and engaging in community service annually. These practices are too often neglected in content-centered courses, and students depart with a fleeting knowledge base and are poorly prepared for the demands of democratic governance.”)

Claire Nader book. Claire Nader, “You Are Your Own Best Teacher: Sparking the Curiosity, Imagination, and Intellect of Tweens,” Essential Books, Washington, D.C., (2022) (Jonathan Kozol (author, “Death At An Early Age”): “[An] engaging book about the need for children . . . to speak without self-censorship and to ‘open their own doors and windows’ …”

Juliet Schor (Boston College Professor of Sociology): “Should we be surprised that young people, such as Greta Thunberg, Leah Namugerwa, and Jamie Margolin sparked the largest climate change demonstration in history? No, says Claire Nader … in this engaging, surprising, and wise book ….”

Plus seven additional endorsements.)

# # #

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Laboring for American Workers

Laboring for American Workers
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 31, 2022, p. A5

Where have all the workers gone? And what can Democrats do about it next Monday?

Had Democrats stuck with the coalition Franklin Roosevelt bequeathed them they would today be winning by wide margins every election from the local schoolhouse to the White House.

That coalition carries forward in the name, “the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party.” Not incidentally, that party controls half of Minnesota's U.S. House seats, both U.S. Senate seats, the lower house of the state legislature, and the governorship.

Both parties have watched the cost of presidential and congressional campaign expenses go from $23 million in 1952 ($257 million in 2020 dollars) to $14.4 billion in 2020 – a 56 fold increase.

In response, the Democrats tried to build a national political party with money from the east coast and voters on the left coast. The result? Flyover country became fly away country. When workers asked, “What have you done for us lately?” all they heard was crickets.

By the 2020 election 83 percent of the 3112 U.S. counties studied were solid Republican. Iowa Democrats’ results were worse: 94 percent of the counties went for Trump. (Democrats picked up the three counties with state universities plus Polk, Linn, and Scott.)

The pay and benefits of union jobs that had enabled workers to enjoy the middle-class rewards of homes, cars, boats and college-educated kids had largely disappeared. When the air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981 President Reagan shut out the union and fired 3,000 members. His message to industry leaders? Union busting is OK.

In the 1950s 35 percent of private sector workers belonged to unions. By 2012, after a half-century of Republicans’ successful efforts at union busting, it had fallen to 6.6 percent. [Photo credit: The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union.]

Union members were not just a source of funds and votes. They also used to do the most significant share of the heavy lifting – door knocking, leaflet distribution, phone calling, and taking voters to the polls.

Today much of that person-to-person campaigning goes undone.

I recall (but can’t find) a Wall Street Journal item in the early 1960s about a firm in California that claimed it could elect anyone to any office with a $100,000 TV-only campaign. With no TV competition they were quite successful. During 2019-2020 political TV, radio and digital advertising reached $8.5 billion.

But today’s TV effectiveness is not what it used to be. And mastery of political use of social media has yet to occur.

Democrats can’t magic wand their party’s problems away.

Meanwhile, what Democrats can do is to seize the ultimate teachable moment each Labor Day offers the party – starting with next Monday.

They can organize Labor Day Democratic party celebrations and rallies in communities and neighborhoods around the country. They can emphasize what the party’s elected officials have delivered to working people over the past century. Not today’s candidates’ promises. What Republicans have done to oppose them, further enriching the wealthy while ignoring, or opposing, workers’ interests.

It's no cure-all, but it sure would be a good start.
Nicholas Johnson was a board member, DNC Harriman Communications Center.

Minnesota DFL. “Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party,” Wikipedia, (“It is currently the state's favored party, controlling half of Minnesota's U.S. House seats, both U.S. Senate seats, the lower house of the state legislature, and the governorship.”)

Campaigns cost. “$23 Million for 1952 Campaigns,” CQ Almanac [Congressional Quarterly], 1953, (“GOP Reports $13,814,997, Democrats $6,159,844 For White House, Capital Races; CQ Lists Spending Reports Of 133 Groups, Names $5,000 Donors In 30 States

The 1952 campaign, Presidential and Congressional, cost the two major parties and other national political groups $23 million, according to reports filed with the Clerk of the House by political organizations. The total includes expenditures for Congressional campaigns. (For detailed analysis of Congressional campaign spending, see page 40.)

Republican Congressional candidates and national and special political committees spent a total of $13.8 million. Democratic groups and candidates spent $6.2 million. The remaining $3 million was recorded as expenditures by labor groups, minor parties and unaffiliated political groups.”)

Karl Evers-Hillstrom, “Most Expensive Ever: 2020 Election Cost $14.4 Billion,” Open Secrets, Feb. 11, 2021, (“Political spending in the 2020 election totaled $14.4 billion, . . .. While the presidential election drew a record $5.7 billion, congressional races saw a stunning $8.7 billion in total spending.”)

“$1 in 1952 is Worth $11.18 Today,” CPI Inflation Calculator,,cumulative%20price%20increase%20of%201%2C018.02%25 [based on U.S. Bureau of Statistics data] (“Value of $1 from 1952 to 2022. $1 in 1952 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $11.18 today, an increase of $10.18 over 70 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 3.51% per year between 1952 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 1,018.02%.”) [Thus, the 2020 value of $23 million in 1952 would be $257 million.]

Republican counties. Samuel Wonacott, “87% of Americans Live in a County That Has Voted For the Same Party in the Past Three presidential Elections,” Ballotpedia News, (“After the 2020 presidential election, 288 million Americans lived in either a Solid Democratic or Republican county, 87.2% of the 330 million covered in this analysis.” map of counties; 459 solid Democratic, 2368 solid Republican)

“Donald Trump Won in Iowa,” Politico, Jan. 6, 2021, (map showing counties)

Percentage in unions. Mike Collins, “The Decline Of Unions Is A Middle Class Problem,” Forbes, Mar. 19, 2015, (“President Reagan - Reagan Kicked off the era of union busting by successfully shutting out the air traffic controllers union in 1981. After a nationwide strike 3,000 workers were dismissed by Reagan. This was a signal to industry that union busting was o.k. It was also a signal to future presidents and politicians that taking an anti-union stance was not necessarily a political liability.”

“In 2013 the unionized workforce in America hit a 97 year low. Only 11.3% of all workers were unionized. In the private sector unionization fell to 6.6%, down from a peak of 35% in the 1950s. American corporations have made a concerted effort to get rid of unions and reduce labor costs since 1980, and they have been very successful.”)

“Unions by the Numbers,” Barnes & Thornburg, Jan. 24, 2022, (“In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020 . . ..” crediting U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

TV ads. Howard Homonoff, “2020 Political Ad Spending Exploded: Did It Work?” Forbes, Dec. 8, 2020, (“In the 2019-2020 election cycle, total political advertising spending reached $8.5 billion across TV, radio and digital media. This was 30% higher than the $6.7 billion projected earlier this year, and 108% more than spending in 2017-2018, which was a record at that time. We saw 9.3 million of TV ads alone in more than 4300 federal, state and local elections ….”)
# # #

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Live Through All Time or Die

Libraries Essential to Democracy
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 24, 2022, p. A6

At least some Americans may be slowly awakening to the demise of their democracy.

As Abraham Lincoln said in 1838, and others emphasized since, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Well, it has now “sprung up amongst us.”

As a stew is the result of its ingredients, so is a democracy the result of the civic organizations and institutions that support its shaky structure: a courageous, trusted mass media; a wise, respected non-partisan judiciary; citizens who vote and honorable officials who count those votes.

Central is the cluster of efforts to prepare all citizens to be their own governors. Elections. Public schools. First Amendment protections and reduced postal rates for newspapers and books. Local and national elections. The roads and rail to turn “e pluribus” into “unum.”

And public libraries.

Although the Nazis’ book burnings are perhaps the most notorious, authoritarians have been burning books for 2,000 years. [Photo: Book burning in Nazi Germany, 1933; source: Wikimedia commons]

The U.S. is no exception. When the British burned the 3,000 books in the Capitol during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell the Congress his near-7,000 book library. Because Federalists argued his books would spread his “infidel philosophy,” the appropriation to buy them only passed by a narrow margin along party lines. Sound familiar?

Forcing librarians to leave, and a library to close, while less dramatic than book burning, produces the same result. As it did in Vinton, Iowa, earlier this year – even though Americans overwhelmingly oppose removal of books from libraries (70 percent Republicans, 75 percent Democrats). [Photo: Vinton, Iowa, public library; source:]

Libraries have been a part of Homo Sapiens’ culture since our agricultural age. One of the first, in the seventh century BC, well before Dewey decimal classification, held 30,000 cuneiform tablets organized by topic.

Not surprisingly, it was political organizing by members of women’s clubs that led the establishment of 75-80 percent of U.S. libraries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In 1896 the Cedar Rapids Federation of Ladies Literacy Clubs generated enough public pressure for a library that the City Council scheduled a vote. Iowa was then one of two states that allowed women to vote on limited tax issues, including libraries.

It was approved by 59 votes (1,105 to 1,046).

The Gazette reported that “Had it not been for the efforts of the women themselves who voted in every ward in the city, the proposition would undoubtedly have been lost” – noting that half the men who voted didn’t bother to vote on the library proposal.

Today’s Iowa public libraries, and their personnel, still offer books and “information desks,” but oh, so much more. Never have they been more essential if our democracy is to “live through all time.”
Nicholas Johnson was a Presidential Advisor, White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services, 1979 Contact


Lincoln on “approach of danger.” Abraham Lincoln, “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” Springfield, Young Men’s Lyceum, Jan. 27, 1837, “Report of Address Before the young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, 27 January 1838,” Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Rutgers University Press, 1953,

Nazi book burning. Michael S. Roth, “How Nazis destroyed books in a quest to destroy European culture,” Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2017, Photo on Wikimedia commons: On Wikimedia commons:

“Book Burning,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum,

Authoritarians burning books. “Book Burning, 213 BC-2011 AD,” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, (“Since ancient times, people from virtually all religions and societies have burned books as a form of censorship, protest, or hate mongering. … Tyrants throughout history -- from Imperial China to Stalin to the Khmer Rouge to Castro -- have attempted to preemptively quell sedition by eliminating subversive texts from the population.”)

Jefferson’s library. “Sale of Books to the Library of Congress (1815),” Monticello, (“Jefferson's offer was met by warm support from many in the House and Senate; still, the bill introduced to authorize the purchase of Jefferson's library faced congressional opposition, particularly from the Federalists, such as Cyrus King, who argued that Jefferson's books would help disseminate his "infidel philosophy" and were "good, bad, and indifferent ... in languages which many cannot read, and most ought not."[3] The bill finally passed with a narrow margin along party lines.[4]”

Vinton library. Gage Miskimen, “With another leader leaving, Vinton Public Library closes for now; Library lost 2 directors in 2 years amid resident complaints,” The Gazette, July 9, 2022, (“The library board met Tuesday to accept the resignation of Colton Neely, the interim director. … Most recently departing the library before Neely was Renee Greenlee, its director for six months. … Vinton also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. … McMahon previously told The Gazette that she received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by first lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris. She said some residents argued the library should have more books about former Republican President Donald Trump on display. “I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump.”)

Gage Miskimen, “Two directors quit Vinton library after complaints about hirings, LGBTQ and Biden books,” The Gazette, June 20/July 10, 2022,

Gage Miskimen, “Vinton Library to Reopen Monday with Limited Hours,” The Gazette, July 15, 2022, p. A1 (“Previous directors left for other jobs amid city resident complaints about the library’s display of LGBTQ books and books about Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.”)

Opposition to book removal. American Library Association, (“Large majorities of voters (71%) oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries, including a majority of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%). Most voters and parents hold librarians in high regard, have confidence in their local libraries to make good decisions about what books to include in their collections, and agree that libraries in their communities do a good job offering books that represent a variety of viewpoints. Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research on behalf of the American Library Association among 1,000 voters and 472 parents of children in public school. The survey was conducted March 1 to 6, 2022, and the sample is demographically and geographically representative of U.S. voters and parents.”)

History of Libraries. Don Vaughan,” A Brief History of Libraries,”, (“The library concept dates back millennia. The first systematically organized library in the ancient Middle East was established in the 7th century BCE by Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, in contemporary Iraq. It contained approximately 30,000 cuneiform tablets assembled by topic.”)

Dewey Decimal Classification, Wikipedia,

Women and libraries. Carnegie Library, Wikipedia, (“Beginning in 1899, Carnegie's foundation funded a dramatic increase in the number of libraries. This coincided with the rise of women's clubs in the post-Civil War period. They primarily took the lead in organizing local efforts to establish libraries, including long-term fundraising and lobbying within their communities to support operations and collections.[5] They led the establishment of 75–80 percent of the libraries in communities across the country.[6]”)

“Our History,” Cedar Rapids Public Library, (“While women could not vote generally, in 1894, Iowa became one of only two states to pass legislation allowing women to vote on limited tax issues, including library levies. The City Council put the matter to a public vote on March 2, 1896. The results were 1,105 votes yes to 1,046 no. The library was approved by just 59 votes. The Gazette reported returns showed half the men who voted didn’t vote on the question at all, and speculated the vote may be challenged on the grounds that ‘the women are illegal.’ “Had it not been for the efforts of the women themselves who voted in every ward in the city, the proposition would undoubtedly have been lost,” the article said. The mayor asked Van Vechten to choose the new library’s first Board of Trustees. The four women and five men of the new board elected Van Vechten their president. The Gazette dubbed her “the mother of the library.”)

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A Global Warming Win-Win-Win

A Global Warming Win-Win-Win
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 16, 2022, p. A5

Can women cool global warming?

Homo Sapiens first appeared about 300,000 years ago. We’ve been growing rather than chasing our food since 10,000 B.C. Estimates of the population then are between one and fifteen million persons.

With more food available, villages evolved and population increased dramatically.

Yet, it took until 1803 to reach one billion people. Then 124 years to reach two billion; 33 years to reach three billion; and 15 years to reach four billion.

Need I say more?

Apparently so. Because most of what we’re told about environmental change and daily disasters stops with the phrase “climate change.”

Many are willing to do their part. To borrow from the Great Depression, they “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” They become vegetarians, bicycle or walk to work, turn up the air conditioner thermostat, recycle, compost, and grow some food.

That’s good citizenship in a crisis. But it only offsets a tiny fraction of the problem.

In fact, many of our environmental problems have been created, or at least made worse, by the rapid increase in rate of human population growth. One example: Humans are responsible for a 1,000-fold increase in other species’ natural rates of extinction.

The increase to eight billion of us also multiplies potable water shortages, polluted air, deforestation, wetlands destruction, increased trash and toxic waste, depleted fisheries and finite resources, increased farm, river and ocean pollution and acidification, and the substitution of concrete for agricultural land and open spaces now under sprawling communities and 4 million miles of roads.

Human activity is not only responsible for most of the greenhouse gas CO2 since our industrial age. We have also reduced the forests and soils that could remove and store it. Our country creates the most – and at a rate seven times per person that of China, number two.

Transportation creates the largest share of U.S. emissions.

In 1922 the U.S. population of 110 million was driving 111 vehicles per 1000 people (12 million vehicles). By 2012 the population was 314 million, but the number of cars per 1000 population had gone from 111 to 808 (271 million vehicles).

Say what you will about fuel efficiency and electric vehicles, more people driving 20 times more vehicles produce more CO2.

Exponential population growth is an environmental challenge for the U.S., but especially third world countries.

Fortunately, women will naturally reduce population growth if they are provided the support they deserve: social status, economic opportunity – and education. Women (and men) with secondary education and access to contraceptives have far fewer births. They space more time between pregnancies. Plus, their children also end up with better health, quality of life, and education. [Photo credit: wikimedia commons.]

We ought to be doing this anyway. Saving our planet is a bonus.

After writing this I discovered 21,000 scientists agree: “We are jeopardizing our future … by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.” Think about it.

Nicholas Johnson lives in Iowa City where he thinks about his great grandchildren. contact

The proposal that I do a population growth column came from my son, Sherman Johnson, who has studied the issue for decades. Many of the sources, below, were his suggestions -- including the potential role of women. Without his urging and assistance this column and its supporting sources would not exist. The photo was suggested by my wife, Mary Vasey.

Earliest humans. John Noble Wilford, “When Humans Became Humans,” New York Times, Feb. 26, 2002, (“The first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk habitually on two legs.”)

Stacy Morford, “When did we become fully human? What fossils and DNA tell us about the evolution of modern intelligence,” The Conversation,

Sept. 9, 2020, (“Bones of primitive Homo sapiens first appear 300,000 years ago in Africa, with brains as large or larger than ours. They’re followed by anatomically modern Homo sapiens at least 200,000 years ago, and brain shape became essentially modern by at least 100,000 years ago. At this point, humans had braincases similar in size and shape to ours.”)

“What Does it Mean to be Human? Humans Change the World,” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,” (“12,000 years ago, ‘The Turning Point,’ Eventually, humans found they could control the growth and breeding of certain plants and animals. This discovery led to farming and herding animals, activities that transformed Earth’s natural landscapes—first locally, then globally.

Human population. “World Population to Hit Milestone With Birth of 7 Billionth Person,” PBS Newshour, Oct. 27, 2011, (“First, the figures. It took all of human history up to 1804 for the world's population to reach 1 billion. But the next billion came only 100 years later, in 1927. And after that, the rate of growth accelerated, 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion 1974, 5 billion 1987, 6 billion 1999, and now 7 billion. We're adding a billion population every 12 years.”)

Use it up. “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make it Do, or Do Without,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, (“During the Great Depression money was hard to come by and so people were not able to go to the store or order whatever they wanted or needed online. In fact there was no online in those days! People became creative in the way they used, and reused, what they had. 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without' became a popular saying.”)

Species extinction x 1000; other examples. Peter Aldhous, “We Are Killing Species at 1000 Times the Natural Rate,” NewScientist, May 29, 2014,

Artic ice. Steve Gorman, “Satellite imagery shows Antarctic ice shelf crumbling faster than thought,” Reuters, Aug. 10, 2022, (“Taken together, thinning and calving have reduced the mass of Antarctica's ice shelves by 12 trillion tons since 1997, double the previous estimate, the analysis concluded. . . . The consequences could be enormous. Antarctica holds 88% of the sea level potential of all the world's ice . . ..”)

California megaflood. Matthew Cappucci, “A ‘megaflood’ in California could drop 100 inches of rain, scientists warn; It hasn’t happened since 1862, but California is due for another one,” Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2022, (“The idea seems inconceivable — a month-long storm that dumps 30 inches of rain in San Francisco and up to 100 inches of rain and/or melted snow in the mountains. But it has happened before — most recently in 1862 — and if history is any indicator, we’re overdue for another, according to research published Friday in Science Advances that seeks to shed light on the lurking hazard.”)

Four million miles of roads. “Highway Statistics,” Office of Highway Policy Information, Federal Highway Administration, Aug. 23, 2018, (“In 2009 there are 4.1 million centerline lane miles and 8.5 million lane miles (an average of 2.1 lanes per centerline).”)

Humans and CO2. “Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” in “Overview of Greenhouse Gases,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 16, 2022, (“Human activities are altering the carbon cycle–both by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and by influencing the ability of natural sinks, like forests and soils, to remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere. . . . [H]uman-related emissions are responsible for the increase that has occurred in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.2”)

U.S. creates most CO2. Andriy Blokhin, “The 5 Countries That Produce the Most Carbon Dioxide (CO2),” Investopedia, July 2, 2022, (“The U.S. is the largest emitter of CO2, with approximately 416,738 metric tons of total carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The largest sources of CO2 emissions in the U.S. came from transportation . . ..” Note that the second country, China, with roughly four times the U.S. population, generated only a little over half as much (235,527) as the U.S.)

Other reports of who creates “the most.” For example, a small country emitting a small percentage of the global total, with a small population, may nonetheless have a high “per capita” number. Hannah Ritchie, “Where in the world do people emit the most CO2? There are large inequalities in the carbon footprint of people across the world. How do countries across the world compare? Where in the world do people emit the most CO2?” Our World in Data, Oct. 4, 2019, (“The world’s largest per capita CO2 emitters are the major oil producing countries; this is particularly true for those with relatively low population size. Most are in the Middle East: In 2017 Qatar had the highest emissions at 49 tons per person, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (30t); Kuwait (25t); United Arab Emirates (25t); Brunei (24t); Bahrain (23t) and Saudi Arabia (19t).”)

Largest share from transportation. “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Overview,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, August 5, 2022, (“The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions.”)

Increase in transportation CO2. “Fact #841: October 6, 2014 Vehicles per Thousand People: U.S. vs. Other World Regions,” Vehicle Technology Office, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, (1922 112 (111.53) vehicles per 1000 people; 2012 808/1000 people (807.99); 111.53/1000 -> 110049 x 111.53 = 12,273,765 vehicles; 808/1000 -> 335,051 x 808 = 270,721,208 (22 x 1922))

“US Population from 1900,” Demographia, (1922 110,049,000, 2012 314,000,000)

“United States Population,” Worldometers, (U.S. population Aug. 5, 2022, 335,000,000 (335,051,677))

Educating women. Elina Pradhan, “Female Education and Childbearing: A Closer Look at the Data,” World Bank Blogs, Nov. 24, 2015, (“In a nutshell, data show that the higher the level of a woman’s educational attainment, the fewer children she is likely to bear.”)

“Overpopulation: Impacts and 6 Solutions for 2022,” MindsetEco, (#1. Support Education for women and girls. Numerous studies . . . have shown that there is a direct and significant link between improved education for women and girls and a lower reproduction rate”. . . “[C]ase studies of improved secondary education for females offer hope for the future. A 1998 study of Niger discovered a 31% decrease in fertility rate among women who had completed secondary school. A comparable 1997 study in Yemen found a 33% decrease”. “Supporting the education of women to at least secondary school level is a definitive impact on reducing birth rates. It also improves the spacing between children and improves the health and quality of life for those children. This has a knock-on effect, where the children of better-educated mothers are also more likely to be educated themselves.”

“#2: Support Initiatives that Provide Education and Access to Family Planning (“Accurate, factual and unbiased education for children, adolescents and adults about reproduction, sexual health and consent are essential to reduce the number of unintentional births that occur each year. Approximately 40% of pregnancies are unintended, which translates to around 85 million unintended pregnancies per year.” “Easy, affordable, and reliable access to contraceptives and birth control is a major factor in preventing unplanned births and is one of the stronger overpopulation solutions.”)

21,000 scientists. Haydn Washington, Ian Lowe, Helen Kopnina, “Why Do Society and Academia Ignore the ‘Scientists Warning to Humanity’ On Population?” Journal of Futures Studies, Sept. 2020, 25(1): 93–106, (“The Second World Scientists Warning to Humanity (Ripple et al., 2017) has now been signed by 21,000 scientists. . . . We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”)

William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Mauro Galetti, Mohammed Alamgir, Eileen Crist, Mahmoud I. Mahmoud, William F. Laurance, 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” Oxford Academic, BioScience, BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 12, December 2017, Pages 1026–1028,, Nov. 13, 2017,

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Which Side Are You On?

Which Side Are You On?
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, July 26, 2022, p. A6

In a panel discussion of whether America’s difficulties were the fault of media or politicians, Congressman Barney Frank interjected, “Our constituents aren’t all that great either.”

Abraham Lincoln, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson before him, warned of the fragility of a democracy confronting an authoritarian-driven mob: “And when such a one does [appear] it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.”

The House Select January 6 Committee’s investigation of officials encouraging authoritarian dictatorship is essential – in a country where 44% of U.S. households, 50 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats have guns.

And yes, a democracy requires independent, respected institutions, such as judges and courts, human rights and voting rights, newspapers and libraries.

However, as with Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson’s oft-quoted preference of “newspapers without government” (over “government without newspapers”) was followed with the less mentioned, “but I should mean that every [person] should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Both Jefferson and Lincoln were emphasizing the need to prepare us as citizens.

Americans will someday search for the enemy who caused our democracy to crumble and wash away, like sandcastles at the seashore. They will discover, as Walt Kelly’s cartoon Pogo observed, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

The founders realized all Americans would need to be well informed and involved to function as democracy’s governors. They made it job one for each of us. Volunteers, handsomely paid with the rights and freedoms of democracy, in exchange for responsibilities willingly accepted.

To train us they provided free public education. Iowa created more one-room schoolhouses than any other state (12,000-plus). To create the social benefits of easily accessible information the founders created a postal service with reduced rates for books, magazines, newspapers and nonprofits. The colonial libraries have expanded to over 9,000 today – 542 in Iowa.

Each of us can help keep our democracy – or push us further down the slope to fascist dictatorship – in hundreds of little and big ways each day. Whether you chose to praise our election officials, teachers and librarians – or drive them to resign (as in Vinton). Whether you choose to subscribe or advertise in newspapers.

Whether you volunteer in political campaigns, contribute what you can, and never miss voting. Stay informed about policy and politics, while questioning unsupported assertions. Learn enough about other democracies evolution into authoritarian states to spot those changes here. Participate in neighborhood associations and civic organizations.

Pew reports only 40 percent of Americans are committed to democracy. A third of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats say, “a strong leader who can govern without interference from other branches of government is a good thing.”

“Which side are you on, boys?” union organizers sang in 1930s Harlan, Kentucky. It’s a question you must answer today. The most important decision you’ll ever make. You can’t sit this one out.

Which side are you on?

[Photo source: "Harlan County War,"] _______________
Nicholas Johnson is the author of Columns of Democracy. Contact


Barney Frank. The quote is from memory. I heard him say it. But I cannot find a source where it is reported or recall the details.

“Barney Frank,” Wikipedia, (“In 2004 and again in 2006, a survey of Capitol Hill staffers published in Washingtonian [magazine] gave Frank the title of the ‘brainiest,’ ‘funniest,’ and ‘most eloquent’ member of the House.”)

Abraham Lincoln. “Report of Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, 27 January 1838, ‘The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” (full text Lincoln speech), (See full paragraph beginning: “The question recurs “how shall we fortify against it?”)

George Washington. “Washington’s Farewell Address to the People of the United States,” Sept. 19, 1796, U.S. Senate,

(“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”)

Thomas Jefferson. See below.

January 6 Committee. “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6xth Attack on the United States Capitol,”

Gun ownership. Lydia Saad, “What Percentage of Americans Own Guns?” Gallup News,

32% of Americans own guns; 44% live in a gun household “Republicans (50%), rural residents (48%), men (45%), self-identified conservatives (45%) and Southerners (40%) are the most likely subgroups to say they personally own a gun. Liberals (15%), Democrats (18%), non-White Americans (18%), women (19%) and Eastern residents (21%) are the least likely to report personal gun ownership.”

Thomas Jefferson. “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Monticello,

(“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” … (“the basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter, but I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”)

Pogo/“we have met the enemy.” “Pogo (comic strip),” Wikipedia, (page contains image of strip with that quote)

Iowa schoolhouses. “A Walk Through Iowa’s One-Room Schoolhouses,” Iowa Department of Education,”

(“Take the one-room school house, once ubiquitous across Iowa’s country landscape. Numbering an astonishing 12,000 to 14,000 at one time, depending on what report you use, Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the union.”)

Postal Service and reduced rates. “A Brief History of Preferred Postal Rates,” U.S. Postal Service Inspector General, Aug. 20, 2012,

(“Since the beginning of the Post Office and the Postal Act of 1792, certain types of mail have qualified for lower postage through preferred rates. It was assumed that these types of mailings yield social benefits for senders, recipients, and more importantly, a large nation. Preferred rates’ roots trace to the first federal postal policy, which recognized that disseminating newspapers at below-cost postage would advance the important social goal of educating the electorate. Soon after, magazines received special rates. For its first 50 years, the Post Office was predominantly a newspaper circulation service . . ..”)

Vinton librarians. Gage Miskimen, “With another leader leaving, Vinton Public Library closes for now; Library lost 2 directors in 2 years amid resident complaints,” The Gazette, July 9, 2022,

(“The library board met Tuesday to accept the resignation of Colton Neely, the interim director. Neely, formerly the library’s children’s director, will become a museum curator in Burlington. . . . Most recently departing the library before Neely was Renee Greenlee, its director for six months. She had been the children’s and family services library assistant at the Marion Public Library and had worked at the Hiawatha Public Library and the Kirkwood Community College library. Greenlee, who left the Vinton post in May and started a new job at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, declined to comment. . . . Vinton also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. She now is director of the DeWitt Public Library in Clinton County.

McMahon previously told The Gazette that she received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by first lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris. She said some residents argued the library should have more books about former Republican President Donald Trump on display.

“I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump.”)

Gage Miskimen, “Two directors quit Vinton library after complaints about hirings, LGBTQ and Biden books,” The Gazette, June 20/July 10, 2022,

Gage Miskimen, “Vinton Library to Reopen Monday with Limited Hours,” The Gazette, July 15, 2022, p. A1

(“closed this week after losing its interim director — and, before that, two directors in two years — will reopen for limited hours beginning Monday.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, “Johnson County librarians oppose Iowa bills looking to change intellectual freedom,” The Daily Iowan, March 20, 2022,

David Sye, “Beyond Book Banning: Efforts to Criminally Charge Librarians,” Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association, March 8, 2022,

Vinton, Iowa,,_Iowa

Marcela Cabello and Stuart M. Butler, “How Public Libraries Help Build Healthy Communities,” Brookings,

(“According to a 2015 Pew survey, almost two-thirds of adult Americans say that closing their local library would have a major impact on their community. As Pew found, over 90 percent of adults think of public libraries as “welcoming and friendly places,” and about half have visited or otherwise used a public library in the last 12 months.”)

Crystle Martin, “Who says libraries are dying? They are evolving into spaces for innovation,”, Aug. 19, 2015,

(“many of today’s public libraries are taking on newer roles. They are offering programs in technology, career and college readiness and also in innovation and entrepreneurship – all 21st-century skills, essential for success in today’s economy.”

Pew authoritarian study. Richard Wike, Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Janell Fetterolf, “Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy,” Pew Research Center, October 16, 2017,

(“Unconstrained executive power also has its supporters. In 20 countries, a quarter or more of those polled think a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts is a good form of government.”

[Info in chart; not quotation. U.S. 40% committed to democracy; additional 44% willing to consider non-democratic alternatives]

“And in the U.S., a third of Republicans say a strong leader who can govern without interference from other branches of government is a good thing, compared with 20% of independents and 17% of Democrats.”)

Which side are you on? “Which Side Are You On?” Wikipedia, (origins),

“Which Side Are You On?” (song; 1941 recording by Almanac Singers including Pete Seeger, (or

Harlan, Kentucky. “Harlan County War,” Wikipedia,

(“The Harlan County War, or Bloody Harlan, was a series of coal mining-related skirmishes, executions, bombings, and strikes (both attempted and realized) that took place in Harlan County, Kentucky, during the 1930s. The incidents involved coal miners and union organizers on one side, and coal firms and law enforcement officials on the other.[1] The question at hand: the rights of Harlan County coal miners to organize their workplaces and better their wages and working conditions. It was a nearly decade-long conflict, lasting from 1931 to 1939. Before its conclusion, an indeterminate number of miners, deputies, and bosses would be killed, state and federal troops would occupy the county more than half a dozen times, two acclaimed folk singers would emerge, union membership would oscillate wildly, and workers in the nation's most anti-labor coal county would ultimately be represented by a union.”)

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Tags: Abraham Lincoln, authoritarian, Barney Frank, democracy, education, George Washington, citizen governors, guns, Harlan County War, House Jan 6 Committee, January 6, Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Day Democracy Died

Listening to Washington and McLean
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, June 22, 2022, p. A6

George Washington warned his “Friends and Fellow-Citizens” there could be days like this in his farewell address of September 19, 1796. Political parties could become “potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled . . . to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”
[Photo credit: wikimedia commons; Gilbert Stuart painting.]

Individuals may then “seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction . . . turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

“[L]et there be no change by usurpation; . . . it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

Are you old enough to remember the lyrics to Don McLean’s song, “American Pie,” about “the day the music died”?

It will be nothing to sing about, but we’re headed toward “the day democracy died.” Some say it’s already dead. “The day democracy died” was January 6, 2021.

It’s more complicated than that.

Like preparing your garden soil in the spring, a democracy can only grow in a nation with, one, a civil society of non-governmental and non-business organizations – from Rotary Clubs to garden clubs, trade unions to Wordle groups. And, two, people who understand and reject authoritarian rule, and affirmatively seek democracy (as we discovered after 20 unsuccessful years in Afghanistan).

The first was found in America by de Tocqueville and published in 1835 in his “Democracy in America.”

The second was made clear by Thomas Jefferson in the 1776 Declaration of Independence, listing and charging the “King of Great Britain [with] a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny.“

Many components, properly assembled and maintained, can become a car. Similarly, a democracy only emerges with the assembly and maintenance of components. A non-political, respected judiciary. A trusted electoral system, expanding participants and easing voting.

Thomas Jefferson considered independent media so essential to democracy that choosing “government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

George Washington thought education a component. “In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

How to destroy a democracy? As the Nazi Hermann Goering explained, “it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship . . .. It works the same in any country.”

The authoritarian’s playbook isn’t complicated. You destroy the public’s trust in its democratic institutions. Promote divisiveness, fear and anger. Repeat “the big lie” until it’s believed by the faithful. Convince the public the media is “the enemy of the people.”

Or, as in Iowa currently, you attack the public education system, prescribe the books and subjects that can and can’t be taught, reduce the appropriations, demonize the teachers.

It works the same in any country. Including ours. Just like George Washington warned us.
Nicholas Johnson is the author of Columns of Democracy. Website: Contact:
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Washington’s Farewell Address. “Washington’s Farewell Address to the People of the United States,” Sept. 19, 1796, U.S. Senate,

“[A]void the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” p. 8

“However combinations or associations . . . may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely . . . to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” p. 12

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state . . .. Let me now . . . warn you . . . against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. This spirit . . . exists under different shapes in all governments, . . . but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension [and] the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries . . . gradually incline . . . men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.” pp. 13-14

“[L]et there be no change by usurpation; . . . it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” p. 16

“But if I may even flatter myself that they [these words] may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good, that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism -- this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.” (italics added) p. 24


“Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
. . .
“avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” p. 17

The day the music died. Lyrics to Don McLean’s song, “American Pie.” Don McLean, “American Pie (Full Length Version),” Lyrics,

January 6, 2021. Nicholas Fandos and Emily Cochrane, “After Pro-Trump Mob Storms Capitol, Congress Confirms Biden’s Win; A normally ceremonial ritual in Congress exploded into chaos as protesters, egged on by President Trump, forced their way into the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes to confirm President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory,” New York Times, January 7, 2021, p. A1,

Peter Baker, “A Mob and the Breach of Democracy: The Violent End of the Trump Era; Those who warned of worst-case scenarios under President Trump — only to be dismissed as alarmists — found some of their darkest fears realized in the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday,” New York Times, January 7, 2021, p. A1,

Democracy in America. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. II, Sec. 2 (See headings, “Of the Uses which the Americans Make of Public Associations; Of the Relation of Public Associations and the Newspapers; Relation of Civil to Political Associations”), 1835,

Declaration of Independence. “Declaration of Independence: A Transcription,” America’s Founding Documents, National Archives, July 4, 1776,

Newspapers without government. Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris Jan. 16. 1787 (“the basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. but I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”) “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Monticello,

Washington on education (public enlightenment). “Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” Washington Farewell Address, supra, p. 17

Hermann Goering, “the same in every country.” "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." Nazi Germany’s Hermann Goering in 1946. [Accuracy confirmed, and source identified at: David Mikkelson, “Did a Nazi Leader Say Convincing People to Support War is ‘Simple’? Nazi Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering was one of the highest-ranking Nazis who survived to be captured and put on trial for war crimes,” Snopes, Oct. 4, 2002,; or

Trump, media “the enemy of the people.” Brett Samuels, “Trump ramps up rhetoric on media, calls press ‘the enemy of the people,’” The Hill, April 5, 2019, (“The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 5, 2019”

The Big Lie. “the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X, “Joseph Goebbels: On the ‘Big Lie,’” Jewish Virtual Library,; see also, Ralph Manheim translation, Sentry Edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1943, pp. 231-232.

Attacks on public education. Todd Dorman, “Iowa Lawmakers should try transparency before they impose it on teachers,” The Gazette, March 20, 2022, (“Among the most stringent concepts being considered are provisions that would require teachers to post all of their course materials online, from book titles and articles to videos and online links to materials, twice during the school year, in August and January. School districts that violate the rules could have their state funding docked for each day of non-compliance. Wanted: Clairvoyant social studies teachers capable of predicting how world and national events might affect their curriculum.”)

Ty Rushing, “Fed Up: How Educators in Kim Reynolds’ Iowa Feel After Nonstop GOP Attacks,” Iowa Starting Line, March 4, 2022, (“There were more than 50 education bills introduced during this year’s Iowa legislative session, including proposals to place surveillance cameras in public school classrooms, ban books, jail teachers, and take funding away from public schools to support private institutions.

Republican lawmakers, who have introduced the bulk of these policies, have done so under the guises of “transparency” and “parental choice” to prohibit teachers from enacting a “sinister agenda,” as Senate President Jake Chapman phrased it on the opening day of the legislative session. Gov. Kim Reynolds has devoted much of her attention and agenda on school-related bills in recent months.

The rhetoric and policies have weighed heavily on Iowa educators this year.

‘The attacks on teachers and discussions of jail time and cameras is absolute insanity. Teachers are being singled out and disrespected. We are simply trying our best to care for kids and help them learn,’ said Salley Wieland, a Des Moines special education teacher.

‘We are educated professionals who have the ability to put our skills to use outside the classroom; many teachers have said they are leaving. I will not be returning.’”)

Bruce Lear, “A Storm’s Coming. It’s Time to Act,” Bleeding Heartland, Feb. 4, 2022, (“Here’s just some of the intensity of this storm.

First, Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman vowed to pass a law to jail educators who make books, he considers pornographic available to students. He opened the 2022 legislative session by accusing Iowa teachers of having a “sinister agenda” to harm children.

Now, he’s made good on his bullying by introducing Senate File 2198, which makes it a serious misdemeanor to knowingly distribute obscene material in school. The bill also allows a parent or guardian to sue the school for civil damages.

Chapman isn’t the only bully. In her Condition of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds suggested Iowa public school libraries were full of dirty books that would be X-rated if they were movies. Later she proposed that all classroom syllabuses and library books be published online for parents to review.

. . .

To one up Reynolds and Chapman, Republican State Representative Norlin Mommsen introduced House File 2177. His bill would require a live feed in every Iowa public school classroom, so parents can see in real time whether teachers are corrupting the youth. Another unfunded mandate. But what about most parents, who don’t want their children on camera?”)

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